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Kidney Disease in Blacks Undetected Until Late Stages

Awareness needs to improve among doctors, study suggests

FRIDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Kidney disease in black Americans often goes undetected until the latest stages, according to new research.

In a study that included more than 3,400 black Americans who were interviewed and given physical examinations, about 20 percent were found to have chronic kidney disease, but fewer than 15 percent (about 1 in 6) knew they had the condition.

"Much of the problem of patient awareness is due to a lack of awareness of the medical practitioners," study lead author Dr. Michael F. Flessner said in a National Kidney Foundation news release. "Most physicians were trained in an era in which serum creatinine (a measure of kidney function) was used as an absolute indicator of kidney disease."

Currently, early stages of kidney disease are diagnosed when protein is detected in the urine, and later stages of the disease are diagnosed by reductions in the glomerular filtration rate, a measure of how well the kidneys are filtering out waste products.

"It is imperative that new approaches be implemented to increase awareness, diagnosis and treatment -- for both the health-care provider and the patient," the researchers said. Their findings are published in the February issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

Professional education programs are starting to improve the degree of awareness among doctors, said Flessner, director of the division of nephrology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

The findings also confirmed that certain factors increase the risk of kidney disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, a large waist size, older age and physical inactivity.

Kidney failure is four times higher among black Americans than whites, and this has been attributed in part to lack of early detection, when treatment can prevent damage from progressing to the point where dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more about kidney disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: National Kidney Foundation, news release, Jan. 21, 2009

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